Sunday, July 15, 2007

The model of humble urbanism

Friday evening I got together with some people that are involved in the same business district as my building and future business. We have some challenges ahead and wanted to get together socially to discuss things in a casual environment. We toured some buildings and visited some businesses. The weather was beautiful. It was a perfect evening for a stroll. The street was so empty that it felt a little like a movie set that was currently unoccupied. That is something we aim to change.

We ended up discussing some of the frustrating things about dealing with a large group of people. People have hidden agendas and varied histories and mental disorders. It's a real challenge when you can't predict where someone is coming from.

One thing I'd like to see is people take charge of the space in front of their building. It's more difficult than you think. It just takes one person who doesn't pick up trash or pull weeds in the sidewalk and the whole thing descends into a finger pointing screamfest. "Why should I do it if they don't!"

As I was walking to my car at 10:30 Friday night I witnessed a beautiful sight. There's a Buddhist monastery on the street. The building itself is set back from the sidewalk more than the surrounding buildings almost to say "I am a humble building". It's difficult to notice it. I've seen it before but never seen anyone come or go so I didn't know if it was active.

Friday night, after an evening of discussing the frustrations on the street, I saw a monk dressed in the yellow and orange robes planting flowers around the parking meter. The only green places on the street are these little plots of dirt or grass around the parking meters. Most of them are overgrown weed collections or hard packed dirt. They don't get any attention from the city and only a couple of business owners do anything with them.

I had seen the flowers and plants on that block before, but not given much thought as to where they came from. After watching him planting I noticed that he had planted in front of several buildings. I doubt he asked permission from the city or received planting permits or requested funds from the Alderman for plants. He just seemed to be going about his business at a time when nobody would have given him attention. It was a small urban miracle. Barely perceptible and at the same time Earth shattering.
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This photo is from last Fall. In it you can see the monestary. The yellow arrow points to the sign. The red arrow points to the plots that were planted. They are much fuller now than they were at the time of this photo.

Thursday, July 12, 2007